Where to even start?

There was an emergency ban Wednesday night. Aaron Forsythe's column will forever carry the word "addendum," but make no mistake about it: the Felidar Guardian ban was an emergency ban, by virtue of the fact that the ban fell outside the established, recently-revamped timeframe.

They set parameters for action, expanded those parameters, chose not to act within expanded parameters, and then acted.

— Bryan G (@BryanGo) April 27, 2017

On Monday, the Amonkhet banlist was released as it was regularly scheduled. Gush and Gitaxian Probe were restricted in Vintage, and Sensei's Divining Top was banned in Legacy. I was mildly surprised that there were no Standard bans (my predictions: Felidar Guardian and Gideon, Ally of Zendikar) but moved on quickly; I had a newsletter to write (subject line: "No Bans. Let's Roll." Heh.). There was some justified disbelief within the community and the usual Chicken Little posturing and hand-wringing. Just another day in the confines of the little community we hold so dear. I thought nothing of it.

Wednesday night, full of Chipotle, I watched the Washington Wizards hang on to a lead against the Atlanta Hawks out of the corner of my eye. It was a boring game between two teams thin on talent, lazily trading playoff possessions with the full knowledge neither of them had a shot at making The Finals, let alone winning it outright. So I opened my phone to see what Twitter had to say. I don't follow many Magic people — my feed is mostly Gawker Media editors — so for Magic news to find my feed generally means that it's substantial and broad-reaching.

The Felidar Guardian ban was mostly lauded, and for good reason — the Felidar Guardian / Saheeli Rai combo is so strong and resilient that it renders most other decks obsolete.

For all the accolades draped on R&D for Doing the Right Thing and banning Felidar Guardian, there was relatively little attention paid to Aaron Forsythe's accompanying announcement.

Next ban list update better include the person(s) or entity responsible for making Aaron write such an intellectually dishonest article.

— Patrick Sullivan (@BasicMountain) April 27, 2017

From the "addendum" announcement:

Saheeli-Felidar's win-loss ratio and metagame share has actually increased since the release of Amonkhet. In Magic Online Standard Leagues since Monday, Saheeli combo has made up approximately 40% of 5-0 and 4-1 decklists—up from prior to Amonkhet's release.

Let's call a spade a spade here: Forsythe may have Magic Online data from a two-day old format and called it actionable in a written column, but he does not believe that to be true. There's no way. Two days of Magic Online, right after Amonkhet was released, would be crazy to act on. Cards take time to acquire, and unlike Amonkhet-centric brews, the copy-cat combo decks have the benefit of months of fine-tuning. Of course they're going to have a massive metagame share! They've already been whittled down to their most coldly efficient iterations.

I'll put it another way: Let's say that today and tomorrow and the SCG Open is dominated by Mardu Vehicles. That wouldn't be unexpected; Mardu Vehicles was Copy-Cat's foil in the only-two-real-decks landscape of Aether Revolt Standard. Would WotC be justified in publishing another addendum? This hypothetical is in clear slippery slope fallacy territory, but when consumer confidence is a factor, precedent carries more weight.

They acted on the parking lot sign the moment they got it. Have a little patience. They didn't have the pizza box, yet.

— Patrick Chapin (@thepchapin) April 27, 2017

The theory that the Felidar Guardian ban was achieved not through regular means, but by a shouting consumer base triggering an edict from on high, is not comforting. The absence of the Felidar Guardian / Saheeli Rai combo will go a long way towards improving the optics of Standard — no one looks at a two-deck format and gets excited — but there is danger in taking theories as to how a format will ultimately shake out and classifying them as fact.

The R&D I grew up with ultimately believed that Magic was self-correcting, that players would adapt to the rise of one deck with countermeasures intended to beat it. The countermeasures were different then; hyper-powerful sideboard cards like Boil and Engineered Plague have been mercifully phased out. The gravitational pull of Planeswalkers has caused most contemporary decks to settle in the "midrange" speed setting, and as a result, traditional deck roles blur and specialized answers can't really exist. In an environment like this, the best cards surface early on in the format's lifespan, and players quickly tire of getting beat by them.

There was one promising part of the addendum announcement:

We also understand we shouldn't let combos like Saheeli-Felidar get out the door in the first place. For that we take ownership and are making changes to try to prevent this from happening again. But our highest priority is keeping Magic fun and enjoyable for our players. We believe this banning coupled with a number of internal testing process improvements will be significant steps toward making Standard the fun, dynamic format we all want it to be in perpetuity.

Sure — the addendum announcement mostly shouldn't be taken at face value, but to me, PR announcements (and the addendum is 100% PR) about sussing the truth out of the trash, and the above passage reads as blunt honesty. Forsythe can't exactly come out and say that R&D has no faith in Amonkhet's likelihood of impacting a Standard format with no bans. Ultimately, the fact that Felidar Guardian wasn't banned on Monday is annoying, but Standard will be better for it. Maybe that's the thing to focus on. Hopefully there's more clarity on what the R&D changes will look like in the coming weeks, if only because I enjoy Magic and have truly loathed watching it take infinite Ls for the last year or so.

#10: Pull from Tomorrow

What I wrote about Pull from Tomorrow on Monday still holds true: it will want to exist alongside Torrential Gearhulk despite its lack of synergy with Torrential Gearhulk. Worth noting that Pull form Tomorrow (and many, many other Amonkhet cards) get much better under a Felidar Guardian ban.

#9: Cast Out

Another non-bo with Torrential Gearhulk that will most likely see play alongside Torrential Gearhulk, Cast Out looks good as an early candidate to replace Stasis Snare since it both cycles and hits Planeswalkers.

#8: Sweltering Suns

On Monday, I mentioned that both Anger of the Gods and Slagstorm both saw Standard play, and that Sweltering Suns is just as powerful as both spells with the upside of cycling. That said, Sweltering Suns is a tough sell for me. The creatures of Standard are huge! This will be in people's sideboards and maybe even a couple maindecks before the Pro Tour, but once the metagame settles, chances are good that Sweltering Suns will be far from players' minds.

#7: Manglehorn

The Felidar Guardian / Saheeli Rai combo is banned, so that Manglehorn application is out, but I can see Manglehorn making a decent living destroying Heart of Kiran for days.

#6: Saheeli Rai

Latent effect of emergency ban: the invisible cost of banning cards is about to become a lot more visible https://t.co/szjdX5Jix6

— jon corpora (@feb31st) April 27, 2017

#5: Approach of the Second Sun

I can't tell if this card is good or if people are just getting hype over a novel alternate win condition. My money's on the latter. Stay tuned.

#4: Anointed Procession

I seriously underestimated how many cards Anointed Procession harkens back to. So I'm opening it up to y'all. Give me your best Anointed Procession combo in the comments.

(The winner gets nothing.)

#3: Censor

It's not quite Miscalculation, but Censor's pretty great, and will scare the bejeezus out of players until the metagame settles. Censor could be just the card to revitalize the white-blue tempo deck with Gideon, Ally of Zendikar and Spell Queller.

#2: Honored Hydra




#1: Protean Hulk

Thanks to its status as the "let's hang out inside a game of Magic" format of record, the Commander banlist is a little funky. Suffice it to say that there are enough super powerful cards that aren't banned that the Commander banlist makes no sense on its face. The truth of the matter is that Commander's a place where players (ostensibly) self-govern themselves.

Protean Hulk was unbanned in Commander this week. The card has game-winning potential, but can also do some cool stuff that doesn't end the game on the spot. Unbanning a card like this lays bare the philosophy of Commander.

Protean Hulk sold a lot because it got unbanned in Commander.

Jon Corpora
pronounced Ca-pora